Using Mobile Development to Enhance Research

At one of our monthly workshops, we recognized the opportunity to collaborate with the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care.

Each month, Web Services holds a workshop in the Regenstein Library entitled "Enhancing Research with Mobile Development.” At the workshops, senior iOS programmer Fritz Anderson is available to listen to the application development needs of staff and faculty. He provides recommendations tailored to the app concept and discusses next steps with the individual, including a ballpark estimate for the work.

Daniel Rubin M.D. from the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care came to a workshop to discuss replacing a web-based form with a mobile application to report adverse patient events. The current form to report such events was viewed by staff as challenging to access; it required the user to log in twice and was not easy to find within the department’s web pages. Dr. Rubin was considering a mobile application to decrease the barrier to reporting. Web Services determined that it was a unique opportunity to work with the Medical Center and Biological Sciences Division to create a clinically relevant mobile application.

The central goal: more frequent reporting to identify problems with the system

Dr. Rubin's main goal was to increase adverse event reporting to allow a better understanding of the perioperative workplace, identify areas of improvement, and enhance patient care. Since staff have access to a potential reporting device (such as a smart phone) with them at all times, an application on a physician’s phone could serve as a reminder to report incidents more frequently.

Minimizing risk vs getting something out the door

To keep the development time and costs efficient, we used the department’s infrastructure. Using the existing web form, we enabled the smartphone camera in the app. This allowed the user to include pictures with the form to help better understand the events.  Since the app collects and sends protected health information (PHI), we worked with staff from the Medical Center and the Biological Sciences Division to adapt our current mobile development guidelines to HIPAA-compliant guidelines.

Technical details for version one include the following:

  • built natively for Android and iOS
  • since the endpoint for the data is a listhost, we used the native mail functionality for both platforms to send the information securely
  • the native email function sends the form and also authenticates users
  • for another level of security, no information is stored in the application or the phone after sending the form, including pictures

What's next

The app has been released to the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care with over 40 active users and 30 submissions within the first month of release.  Future meetings will discuss the need for any functional standpoints, security concerns, and potential for future versions that improve upon the current app.  Additionally, Dr. Rubin plans on publishing a paper about the effect a mobile adverse event reporting system can have on the reporting of adverse events.